The Callisto Protocol launches on December 2nd for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC, having gone gold a few weeks ago. There’s quite a bit of hype surrounding this sci-fi survival horror shooter, especially since it comes from the mind of Dead Space co-creator Glen Schofield (along with several other series veterans at Striking Distance Studios). Here are 15 things you need to know before jumping in.
Originally part of the PUBG Universe, The Callisto Protocol has evolved into a standalone story. Set on Callisto, Jupiter’s moon, players control Black Iron colony prisoner Jacob Lee. Life is tough, but things quickly take a turn for the worst when a strange virus transforms the other prisoners into monsters. Jacob begins the long, torturous journey to survive and ideally escape, but there’s more going on than meets the eye (and the Warden is seemingly involved).
Black Iron Prison and its various sections form a major part of the game as you navigate down hallways, sewer systems, and much more. However, they’ll also apparently venture out onto the surface, exploring an abandoned colony. What happened to the colonists living there? Are there other terrifying secrets lurking on Callisto? Either way, there will be plenty of unique locations to visit.
Though maybe not the main antagonists, Biophages will be the biggest threat to Jacob as he wanders the world. They’re grotesque but also quite powerful and consist of various types, including one with a massive mouth, two heads and the ability to spit acid. Depending on the circumstances, the Biophages can mutate, becoming even stronger and more dangerous. Multiple mutations can also occur, so whenever you see one happening, best to take out that enemy before it’s too late.
As in the Dead Space series, Jacob can rely on several firearms in Black Gate, like a shotgun, rifle, etc. The main difference is that ammo is a lot scarcer. And though Striking Distance Studios didn’t outline all the different weapons, each has an upgrade tree for specializing them. Don’t count on unlocking all of the upgrades in one playthrough, though.
Given the relative lack of ammo, melee combat is much more important in The Callisto Protocol. You’ll have weapons like a baton for bashing foes, but melee is also good for combos with guns. Hit an enemy with a combo, and as they’re stunned, you can automatically target a specific body part (helpfully indicated via crosshair) and potentially blast it off. Just remember to take a Biophage’s mutations into account as well.
If bullets and bashing fail to get the job done, the GRP or The Grip, a weapon that utilizes gravity, can help. You can toss objects, potentially triggering a chain reaction, or pick up enemies and throw them into the environment. It’s handy for several situations but also highlights the importance of observing your surroundings.
Environmental Thrills and Kills
Though Black Iron Prison plays host to many corridors, some scarier than others, there are several things to keep in mind. Described as adaptive and interactive, changing one thing about the environment – like activating a machine – could result in a fan turning on somewhere else. That could make a difference later when you’re throwing an enemy into it, and various other environmental hazards can even the odds. A vent system also exists, and you’re constantly left wondering if there’s something out there, waiting to scare you.
Lots of Deaths
If there’s one thing that the development team is giddy about, it’s the player dying. Death by Biophage taking a bite out of Jacob’s head, death by accidentally slipping into a turbine – here a death, there a death, everywhere a death. Different variations of death animations also exist, so they can vary depending on the player’s position at the time. Such is the focus on dying that there’s even a special Achievement/Trophy for witnessing them all.
The Biophages can be a little quirky, and we’re not talking in a 90s rom-com way. Speaking to VG247, chief technical officer Mark James revealed that enemies often forego attacking you just to add to the scares. They may jump into a vent before your eyes to add to the tension and uncertainty of a potential ambush. Also, if you’re heavily leaning on long-range weapons, they may stay out of sight and try to get close by traversing the vents. This also ties into the various mutations, as the enemy physically adapts to your tactics.
Though pretty linear, the campaign offers a decent amount of things to do. Beta paths provide an alternate means of traversing environments, and there is a lot of hidden stuff that gives additional details about the story. It’s optional, though, and you can skip it if you’re just there for a story playthrough.
How long will it take to complete The Callisto Protocol? Schofield told EDGE in issue #377 that it would require 12-14 hours approximately. However, it seems that fully upgrading weapons can take time, and the aforementioned alternate routes can spice up repeat playthroughs for those brave enough to return.
The Callisto Protocol is already pretty tough at the outset, especially when it’s not throwing tons of ammo and resources at you. But there are even harder settings, according to Schofield in an interview with PlayStation Blog. These not only limit resources for the player even further, but also “make enemies stronger, more aggressive, and more aware of the player’s movements.” The developer is looking for the right level of challenge without frustration, so time will tell how well these difficulties are tuned.
Post Launch Support
If the average playtime doesn’t sound enough, then good news – Striking Distance will provide a full year of post-launch support for The Callisto Protocol. The contents of this are still unknown, and given that the base game tells a contained story, as per director Glen Schofield, there may be additional features and modes instead. Maybe other playable characters with alternate perspectives on the game’s events will be added, further expanding on the setting.
PS5 DualSense and 3D Audio Support
PS5 players will feel even more immersed in the horror – willingly or not – thanks to support for the DualSense controller. Haptic feedback is supported, whether it’s the GRP humming, or relentlessly crushing a Biophage’s head with a baton. Even more important is the 3D Audio support. There are over 200,000 individual sounds, and along with the music, special attention has been paid to make it all sound scary.
4K Ultra HD and 60 FPS Performance Modes
Along with 4K Ultra HD support on Xbox Series X and PS5, The Callisto Protocol also features a 60 FPS Performance mode. This is good news, but there are still a few caveats. What’s the frame rate for 4K Mode? What’s the resolution in Performance Mode? Will the frame rate in either mode be stable, and could dynamic resolution scaling come into play? Lots of questions still to be answered, but we won’t know until the game is out.